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Ships Face Loss Of Broadband Cover

Fleetbroadband is a new product, the impact on the majority of shipping will be limited, but users of the new service will be without any connectivity during the repositioning.
by Neville Smith
Washington DC (SPX) Jun 10, 2008
MARITIME satellite communications provider Inmarsat will temporarily suspend its broadband services while launching its last I-4 satellite this year in a move to create a new coverage network of three, high-powered satellites positioned over the Americas, Europe and Africa and Asia.

To extend coverage, it must temporarily shut down its first two I-4 units and reposition all three satellites. This means withdrawing its broadband voice and data services for a five-week period in November and a three-week period in December.

An area in the north Atlantic, between Greenland and Norway at its widest point, and coverage off the coasts of Spain, West Africa and into the southern ocean, will be affected for up to five weeks.

In Asia, a wider band covering the Russian Far East, Japan, Korea, the East China Sea, part of the Malacca Strait, the northern, western and southern Australian coasts and as far east as the Torres Strait in the north and Spencer Gulf in the south, will be affected for up to three weeks. Services affected include Inmarsat's latest Fleetbroadband maritime product and its land-based and aeronautical variants.

Inmarsat's head of maritime business Piers Cunningham said about 150 of its new broadband terminals would have no service but that most users would have a back-up service of some kind in place.

Compensation agreements will be made with its distribution partners while the service is unavailable. Inmarsat first advised its distribution partners last September about the possible withdrawal of the service, but Mr Cunningham said that the exact timing of the shutdown would depend upon the launch of the third I-4, and that the disruption might take place next year.

"We realise this is an inconvenience but we think a few weeks in 20 years is not a bad record," he said. He added that the end result of such inconvenience would be a near-global coverage for users.

The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System and Inmarsat's other services, Inmarsat-B and Inmarsat Fleet, are not affected. The provider has also said that some of the improved coverage features in the Atlantic Ocean Region West on its existing I-3 satellite will be withdrawn after the repositioning.

Because Fleetbroadband is a new product, the impact on the majority of shipping will be limited, but users of the new service will be without any connectivity during the repositioning.

Inmarsat said its leased capacity services to the US Navy and other governmental bodies would not be affected.

The repositioning is necessary to move two of its I-4 satellites within sight of its satellite access station in Hawaii, improve the "look angles" and connectivity for users, and to comply with regulatory requirements for the US market.

When moving a satellite, interference with other systems must be avoided by turning off the power to the communications payload. When the service is restored and the three satellites in position, Inmarsat said a more focused satellite footprint over North and South America will bring it increased traffic in future.

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